Skeyton – War Memorial (Gunner Alfred Allard)

One of the saddest elements of the war memorial in Skeyton is that it commemorates three members of the Allard family who died, all brothers. They are Gunner Alfred Allard, Driver Bertie John Allard and Private Percy Walter Allard.

The parents of the men were Edward John Allard (born in 1853) and Ann Elizabeth Allard, who were living at Workhouse Corner in the village at the time of the 1911 census. At the 1911 census, there were five people living at that household, Edward John Allard, Ann Elizabeth Allard, Bertie John Allard, Kathleen Hetty Allard and Percy Walter Allard. Rolling back to the 1901 census, this shows that the family was bigger, with Edward and Ann as the parents, along with their children Louisa, Alfred, Alice, Bertie, Kathleen and Percy, along with their grandchild Spencer.

Alfred Allard, service number 30620, worked as a farm labourer before he went off to war. He joined the 72nd Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery and was sent off to Mesopotamia, alongside men who had come from India and who formed the British Indian Army. It’s hard to imagine what a young man from a rural Norfolk village must have made of this, fighting the Turkish army in what is now Iraq.

Alfred would have seen the defeat of the British by the Turks in early 1916, in what turned into something of a capitulation in some aspects. He didn’t see the British fight back and gain back control in 1917, as he died on 6 June 1916 at the age of 28. I’m unsure of the reason for his death, as it didn’t appear to occur during military action, but he could have been wounded in the earlier conflict, or just became unwell.

Alfred is buried at Basra War Cemetery, but for the moment, this is not a peaceful location. The cemetery has been badly vandalised and desecrated and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is doing everything it can to try and restore it. There is security fencing up and efforts are being made to get contractors in to restore the site, but it remains closed to the public and will likely remain so for some time.